Looking good is big business. In an era of selfies and the rise of Instagram, our feelings around our appearance has never been so obsessive. Fake eyelashes, fake tan, fake boobs are found everywhere we turn. But Amanda Cassidy asks if pared-back beauty is finally becoming the newest beauty trend?
From 11-year-olds binging on Instagram to the 50-plus-year-olds hooked on filler - the beauty industry casts a very wide net. With such a wide spectrum of beauty-consciousness, comes opportunity, as well as responsibility for those at the top of the beauty game. The business of beauty is complex and continuously changing. There is nothing new in wanting to look good. Our inbuilt social psyche means we all want to fit in and look our best, but for a while there it felt as if there was an army of females that all looked just like each other. Perhaps it is as a result of influencers, well, influencing. Maybe we can blame the Kardashians for polluting young girls with the fog of hair extensions and pouty lips and unnaturally smooth skin as the beauty ideal?
But times are changing and industry moguls are becoming aware that people are starting to equate looking good with feeling good and are demanding products that offer both. There has been a decline in plastic surgery clients requesting bum-lifts and asking surgeons to recreate that 'fake-look' in general, according to beauty analysts. Eleanor Dwyer studies the beauty industry on behalf of Euromonitor. She believes people are looking to move towards simplicity and ethically responsible products:
“People are becoming more aware that what they put on their skin seeps into their skin. There’s definitely been a rise in demand for natural products. People are consuming beauty products in a different way."
In the celebrity world, more well-known names are also choosing to embrace the more natural look. Kylie Minogue, known for her love of fillers, has chosen to step back from some of the more intense anti-ageing treatments. Cameron Diaz has also been seen sporting a more relaxed face and has spoken about her desire to grow old gracefully, without looking like a frozen version of her younger self. Even the queen of cosmetic enhancement, Katie Price has spoken out about why she wants to go down a more natural beauty route, after seven breast-augmentations, numerous nose jobs, lip implants, veneers and liposuction. Friends actress Courtney Cox admitted that smoothing out her wrinkles actually made her feel worse; “It changed my face in such a weird way that I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to be like that’.”
Shiseido's Marc Rey pointed out in a recent interview that it is younger women who are helping to drive this change.
"Millennial women are more confident and caring. They are craving authenticity in content and in how they look. We need to respect this consumer intimacy and to realise that it connects to a woman's self-perception and is a key defining characteristic of why women like beauty products". So, is that why cosmetic surgery is down by a whopping 40%? Are we finally embracing our natural attractiveness and feeling more empowered to stand apart from the crowd?
Instagram may have helped us form new ideas about what is considered beautiful. There is an explosion in the health and wellness side of the industry that cannot be ignored and every second image I browse is telling me the importance of feeling good as opposed to looking good. I'd love to think we have evolved to shun the illusory benefits of going under the knife and are giving the collective double finger to being a slave to our looks. But the decline of invasive surgical cosmetic procedures has given way to the rise of lunchtime non-surgical facelifts, fillers, botox and thread-lifting. It makes perfect sense. It is cheaper and involves less downtime with less risk and often instant results. It suits the plastic surgeons too, patients require no hospital stay and they get repeat business because the treatments wear off.
They say that beauty is being beautiful the way you are and I'd love a world like that for my daughters. But let's get real, we live in a world where we are judged on how we look whether we like it or not. That's why 42-year-old Alison says she gets regular anti-ageing injections. Alison works as a solicitor in Dublin and she says that choosing to get Botox makes her feel more confident. She says that wanting to manipulate how she looks to suit her desires shouldn't be viewed as an insecurity.
"I care about how I look. I want to look good because I think it also helps me professionally. I shouldn't have to feel guilty about that. I wouldn't alter my appearance so dramatically that I look like a different person but when I look good on the outside, I feel good on the inside. That confidence in feeling more attractive after getting Botox plays to my ability to influence others (in the workplace)."
Elsewhere in the media, we are seeing a trend emerging of a return to authenticity. The HBO show, Girls was a hit among many because it displayed a group of girls who were flawed, but real. Lately, there has been a huge backlash in the use of digital manipulation of images not just for magazine covers but for 'real' bloggers and influencers. People are finally waking up to the fact that you can't fake it until you make it anymore.
So, whether you think wrinkles are lovely or not, it is all about the way we choose to face the world...as long as you don't feel like your vulnerabilities are being exploited by brands. I'll be teaching my girls to work on being attractive inside and out while enjoying the art of self-expression. I will choose to celebrate the natural look, I will champion the flawed and applaud the less-than-perfect. I will do this not because it is on trend, but because it is closer to who we really are and I feel a responsibility to the sisterhood to tear open that curtain we've all be hiding behind for fear of being seen as less-than for simply being ourselves.
Unfortunately, our obsession with appearance and especially female appearance isn't likely to wane anytime soon, but wouldn't it be lovely if we could magically make cellulite a symbol of achievement and laughter lines a beauty must-have? In that case, I'd be top of my game.